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Fraser Anning's Popularity On Facebook Exploded After His "Final Solution" Speech

Right-wing politics and Facebook: Name a better duo.

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Over the last seven days Queensland senator Fraser Anning's Facebook page has grown in followers by a greater percentage (22%) than any of the major political parties, according to data from analytics tool Crowdtangle.

It's the result of Anning – representing Katter's Australian Party – using his maiden speech in the Senate to praise the long abandoned White Australia Policy, while also using the phrase "final solution", and mirrors the idealogical insurgency on Facebook across the globe.

BuzzFeed News was able to determine the rise in popularity using the data analytics tool Crowdtangle, which shows engagement figures for chosen social pages.

Anning's Facebook page was compared with those of major parties, minor parties such as Australian Conservatives, independents and his boss Bob Katter.

It's telling that the rest of the leaderboard for that seven day period reads like a who's who of conservative and far right Australia. While Anning led the pack in page growth, the data shows that the pages receiving the most attention also belonged to politicians and movements with incendiary policy.

Following Anning's, the pages that grew the most percentage wise were, in order: Katter's Australian Party, Australian Conservatives, Australian Liberty Alliance, Reclaim Australia and Pauline Hanson.

Blair Cottrell, the far-right nationalist who wants Hitler's photo in every classroom – and who famously appeared on Sky News Australia as a "activist" a fortnight ago – has also seen his page grow.
crowdtangle.com

Blair Cottrell, the far-right nationalist who wants Hitler's photo in every classroom – and who famously appeared on Sky News Australia as a "activist" a fortnight ago – has also seen his page grow.

When the data is measured over the last 12 months the major parties do appear, however the Reclaim Australia Rally and Pauline Hanson's page make up the top two. Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives have also grown immensely.

crowdtangle

On Thursday Sky News obtained leaked audio it said revealed that Anning's speech was "controversial by design".

The audio featured former One Nation state secretary Jim Savage in a meeting, saying he told Anning that his maiden speech would need to be "really controversial" and "hit that fucking nerve ... otherwise you'll be forgotten".

"Don't start apologising and say, 'Oh yeah I shouldn't have done that', hold your fucking nerve," Savage can be heard saying.

Anning did indeed stick to his guns, appearing on Sky News the next day to say he wouldn't apologise. His party leader, Bob Katter, then followed with a bizarre press conference where he praised Anning's speech while angrily yelling at reporters.

Anning got the attention he craved, at least in the short term.

Australia's myriad conservative Facebook groups – with more than a hundred thousand combined members – have embraced Anning's inflammatory maiden speech, offering praise and agreement.

It's these groups that have the most power in mobilising a massive audience towards one cause. In the past, they have also conducted mass trolling campaigns on other social accounts and political pages.

Meanwhile, Anning's former boss Pauline Hanson has lost points for criticising her former would-be One Nation senator, who spectacularly defected from the party to become an independent on the same day he was sworn into the Senate.

It's no longer a secret that far right movements have been rapidly gaining traction using platforms including Facebook. Plenty has been written about Donald Trump and his use of social media, as well as digital strategy and election-influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica.

It's much easier to build a profile and an engaged audience using talking points like immigration, border security, privatising public broadcasters and the good ol' days. The promise of conservative economic management and tax reform is far less attractive.

Anning's opponents have been quick to point out the 19 votes he received in the most recent election — ignoring the more than 200,000 votes his then party, One Nation, received in Queensland.

It might be true that only 19 people formally voted for him, but Anning now has the support of a much stronger, much larger group: Australia's conservative Facebook community.

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at bradley.esposito@buzzfeed.com.

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